It is often thought that the reformed faith, with its stern view of human sin and its emphasis on the majesty of the Almighty, is calculated to produce dour, humorless Christians, beaten-down, and without a spark of real joy in the Lord. In fact, someone once defined ‘Puritanism’ as ‘the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.’ At least that is what the opponents of the reformed faith are inclined to think. And, no doubt, some Reformed folk may have given them reason for their opinion.
But, as a matter of simple fact, I only do justice to the great tradition of teaching and living the Christian life to which we belong in this church, when I set beside what we have already discussed – a high view of God, and a deep sense of a believer’s abiding sinfulness – an emphasis upon the necessity of sustained joy as a mark of genuine Christian piety or spirituality.
By placing joy as a mark of genuine Christian piety, we are only demonstrating that we are the loyal sons and daughters of Paul and the Holy Scripture. For Paul says that joy is a holy obligation of Christian people, and in our passage this Lord’s Day from Philippians 4:1-4, the apostle Paul commands us to rejoice always, to live in joy! Indeed, this is but the climax of many references to joy which he has already made in his letter to the Philippians.
And, in this emphasis upon joy, the Apostle Paul is, of course, not at all unique. As one theologian has remarked: ‘It is astonishing and certainly does not need to be verified by quotations how many references there are in the Old and New Testaments to delight, joy, bliss, exultation, merry-making and rejoicing, and how emphatically these are demanded from the Book of Psalms to the Epistle to the Philippians.’ Hence, C.S. Lewis was not overstating the point, he was not being anything else but faithful to Paul and the Scripture when he wrote: ‘It is a Christian duty…for everyone to be as happy as he can.’
Joy is to be characteristic of Christian living; it should distinguish the children of God. This Sunday we will consider what is genuine joy and how you can rejoice in the midst of trying circumstances and troubling situations within this world.
It has been a wonderful time celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. A big thank you to the Byrd’s for opening their home to host our Reformation party and to the women’s ministry for planning the event. And thank you to all who made it a grand success. I am already anticipating next year’s party.
Don’t forget to update your contact information. You can do this online through our website or on our FB page. You can also do this Sunday morning. Forms will be available, and Keri will offer assistance, if you can take just a few minutes to ensure that we have the correct information, we would be most grateful. Thanks.
It is our deepest delight to serve you, the people of Redeemer, and to reach into the heart of our area. I give thanks to God for the privilege of being your pastor, and am especially thankful for your prayers. Michelle and I thank you for your kindness and generosity. May the Lord grant us many years and much fruit in Christ. We love you.
Soli Deo Gloria,